Readings for August 25, 2019
Isaiah 12:5-7, 18-21
I cannot assume that I will take my place in heaven. Nor should I assume that there will be a place for me in heaven before my neighbor takes their place. Others are on the same journey, and some–perhaps many–of those I might not expect to see will complete the journey before I do. But I must not act like the fabled hare, sitting back and scoffing at what I believe are others’ flawed efforts, or resting because I feel I’ve done far more than others could. I must continue to push forward lest I be left wailing and grinding my teeth outside the now closed door.
In other words, entering through the narrow gate requires effort and strength. It’s a lot of work. Every day. With God’s help, I am striving to be like Him.
God is perfect. I am not. But God’s grace gives me the opportunity to become perfect, which is His will for me. He accepts me as I am but loves me too much to want me to stay that way. He wants me to be perfect and holy as He is perfect and holy. Only through His discipline, only in accepting His gift with perseverance and strength, will I become perfect and take my place in the promises and inheritance of the Kingdom.
So I will work to be perfect. I will work to emulate the example Jesus has given me. And I will work to pour as much love and goodness into the lives of others as I can.
That said, it is also important to remember that I cannot earn heaven. No matter how hard I work, or how much I give, or how much I do, I am not guaranteed a place at my Father’s table. And I shouldn’t be. God’s grace is a freely given gift and the effort I put into my faith cannot be about the reward I believe I am due. That isn’t what love looks like. God, who is love, wants me to love Him and to love my neighbor. And God wants me to do this without counting the cost or calculating the return.
So I can and should work at my faith and do as many good deeds on this earth while I can, and spread as much love and joy as I can. But doing the Lord’s work does not earn me heaven. What the Lord’s work does is keep me in line, bring me closer to God, make me strong, and give me the perseverance to continue.
So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.